A friend admitted she’s not speaking to her mother anymore.
Her mother has abused her from the time she was a little girl, and now that my friend is grown, that woman is trying to abuse her grandchild as well. My friend tried to reason with her mother, but it came to nothing, so she’s going “no contact,” at lest for a little while. She’s doing it to protect herself so that she can heal, and to prevent abuse of her own child.
That friend said as much to a group of us, and most people were supportive. But one person was not. She wouldn’t stop talking about forgiveness and the ten commandments, and how we have a duty to honor our parents– never mind that remaining a near occasion for a parents’ sin is no part of honoring and never mind that enabling someone to keep doing harm is no part of forgiveness. I reassured my friend that the best way to “honor” an abuser is to get away– to no longer be there for them to abuse, to give them a chance to repent or at least to not sin in that way anymore. I told her that her duty was to her daughter right now, to make sure that her daughter was safe. She didn’t have a right to vengeance– she shouldn’t vandalize her mother’s car or try to ruin her mother’s reputation, or anything of that kind. But she had a right to speak about what happened, to go to her friends for support, and to be in a place where she could heal. I’ve been through nearly the same thing, after all. I had to escape from my immediate family.
Earlier this week I blogged about some of my experiences, and I got the same thing my friend got. I got assurances from a total stranger that my mother “must be a good person.” This person didn’t know my mother or what happened to me; she just assumed. When I got back on Facebook, a friend was telling me about forgiveness. And when I went back to my comment box, the stranger was saying that all parents make mistakes, and of course she ended by quoting about seventy times seven times.Abuse survivors are always hearing about seventy times seven times.
Jesus said that we were to forgive seventy times seven times– and in Biblical symbolism, the number seven stands for infinity. Seventy times seven. Infinity times ten, squared. This is how many times you must forgive, or the Father will not forgive your trespasses.
I don’t think this person meant to scare me. Some people do use that passage abusively, to scare their victims. But I think this person honestly thought she was admonishing me for the sin of running away.
But it is scary, even after all these years, to have that passage quoted at me.
“You need to learn to forgive” was what my father told me when my mother verbally tortured me, after all. My mother had a way with words. She knew just what to say to make me feel worthless, to make me feel ugly and unlovable. I was her paddle ball, and she was an expert at batting me any direction she liked. She used to make me want to kill myself. She was great at that. I still don’t know how I lived through some of those nights. And the next morning, my father would drive me to work, and I’d tell him how I felt. “You need to learn to forgive,” he said.
Of course, my father was right, in a sense. I do need to learn to forgive. Not seven times, but seventy times seven times. Forgive us our debts, as we forgive our debtors. Be perfect, as your Heavenly Father is perfect.
Who is like the Father?
No one but the Son. In the Son, then, we should find the example of perfect forgiveness.
What is forgiveness?